Tulips have become so common that we don’t think twice about them, but there was a time when these beautiful bulbs were worth their weight in gold. Best planted in the autumn in most climates, tulips bloom perennially, barring squirrel infiltrations. Originally found free growing in the mountains of Persia, Tulips traveled into Europe with the Turks. The can propagate through off-springs, seeds or micro-propagation and come in a variety of types, each with its own characteristics.
Tulips should be planted in the fall. All tulips need a period of dormancy to bloom properly. If you reside in a cold climate you can plant your bulbs in the early autumn. Those who live in a more temperate climate, plant in the late fall. If you live in a region that doesn’t have cold winters, set your bulbs in the refrigerator for eight weeks before planting them in early spring; this allows them to achieve a sufficiently long dormant period.
Tulips are available in early, mid and late blooming varieties and in dozens of beautiful colors. Singles generally have smooth, simple petal structures and are used in formal plantings. Doubles look very similar to peonies with multiple petal layers. Fringed tulips are almost lace-like and parrot tulips have streaks of various colors along their petals. The enormous selection is likely to keep you happily engaged in picking your spring show for a while. One thing you should keep in mind though is that tulips look best when planted in clusters or 10-20 of the same flower.
When planting tulips you want to start with the highest quality bulb that you can reasonably afford. A good landscape supply store will be able to provide you with a nice selection of bulbs. Better quality bulbs will bloom more regularly, withstand disease better and produce healthier and often larger blossoms. Once you have acquired bulbs you will need to prepare your planting area.
Bulbs need to be planted in loose, well drained soil. The can be planted in either a natural or formal pattern. Multiply the width of the bulb, multiply by 3 and you have an appropriate planting depth. This allows you to plants different bulbs together by layering them. Layering bulbs or planting species that flower at different parts of the summer ensures colorful views for larger periods of time.
Natural planting of bulbs involves either scattering them on the area you intend to plant and place them where they fall, or clustering them together in bunches, rather than rows. A formal setting will likely have many of the same flowers placed together in carefully spaced rows and columns. Mix in some compost in the area you wish to plants. Dig down to the appropriate depth, scatter some rock phosphorus in the bottom of the hole and place the tulip bulbs into the hole; point upwards. Rock phosphorus, unlike bone meal, will not attract animals. Cover the bulbs carefully so as not to tip them over and gently pat the soil into place. That’s it.
If you have a serious problem with squirrels digging up your bulbs you may want to protect them by cutting a piece of chicken wire to match the size of your hole. Curl over the edges of the wire and place it on top of the bulbs before you back-fill the hole. While this won’t eliminate all squirrel activity it will significantly reduce their depredations. All the supplies needed for planting and protection should be available at a landscape supply store.